Thursday, January 23, 2014

Whatever You Do-- Do NOT Share This Blog!

I receive no financial compensation for writing this blog. No jewels. No precious metals. No Godiva Dark Chocolate Vanilla Mousse Truffles. Nothing. Of course, I did not begin writing this blog back in August 2012 with the idea that I would, or should, get anything in return. All I wanted to do was find a new outlet for my writing in an effort to force myself out of a two-year period of creative dormancy (followed by a brief period of scattered thunderstorms). So I signed on to Blogger and started posting my miscellaneous ramblings. I sought nothing in return.

Soon after opening my Blogger account I noticed that they have a stats page that tells you how many people view your blog. “Oooooh! That’s cool!” I thought, and I wondered how many people would read my stuff. Right away I did some calculations.

According to Wikipedia there are 254,295,536 people with internet access in the United States. To make the math easy, I decided to round down to 250,000,000. Because I: a) didn’t want to be presumptuous, and b) figured that there are a lot of busy people out there who simply didn’t have time to read my blog, I took a conservative guess that only 1 in 20 people would check it out. That works out to about 12,500,000 blog readers. Pretty solid premise, right?

After I wrote my first blog entry (about being freaked out that someone running for Vice President—Paul Ryan—could possibly be younger than me) I emailed it to friends and family and posted it on Facebook and Twitter. Then I waited 24 hours and checked out my Blogger stats page expecting to see an eight-digit number. What I saw was the number 81. Yes, of the 254,295,536 internet users in the United States, 81 of them looked at my blog. (Well, actually 80, because one of the readers was my friend Rick, in France.) “Hmmm,” I thought, “maybe the others will come around when I post my next blog entry.” But my next entry yielded only 45 readers.

I wondered how I might go from 45 readers to several million, and as I researched I realized that I needed one of my blog entries to go “viral.” Yes, just like influenza, my blog needed to be shared by so many people so rapidly that it would quickly infect the entire country. But how one makes their blog that contagious has eluded me all this time.

I’m sure there must be some secret techie way to do this that I’m just not aware of. I know that others have made their various videos, images, and essays go viral, but I’m not quite clear how. The one sure way seems to be by over-tipping a waiter or waitress. I’ve noticed that about once a week some waitress from Red Robin or Hooters or Olive Garden posts a credit card receipt from a mysterious patron who tips them $900 on their $20 tab, and the next thing you know everyone within 50 feet of a computer has seen the heartwarming story. Problem is, I’m a mediocre tipper, so I’m certainly not driving up my page views this way.

Truth is, I’ve been scratching my head about this since I first started blogging a year-and-a-half ago. I know no conventional means to make my blog go viral, so I thought I might attempt the tried and true method of reverse psychology. This is why I’m telling everyone who is reading this blog (all 38 of you) not to share it with anyone. DO NOT SHARE!

And I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, Andrew’s being a real jerk about this. He can’t tell me what to do. Just to spite this yutz I’m going to share this with everyone I know.” Don’t do it! I’m telling you—it’s a huge mistake!

As I said at the beginning of this essay, I am doing this blog purely as a creative outlet. I want nothing in return—not even 12,499,955 more readers. SO DO NOT SHARE THIS BLOG! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I’d Like to Thank the Academy for Getting Me Through My Dental Cleaning

Today I had a dental cleaning—one of life’s many necessary evils. Indeed, it is one of the more evil of the necessary evils. The thing that makes them particularly heinous to me is the fact that the dental hygienist is in close proximity to various numbing agents, but it never seems to occur to her to use them. Maybe she figures that the discomfort she inflicts by digging under my gums with metal scraping instruments is the kind of thing a strapping adult male like me should easily tolerate. Or perhaps she figures that the overt pleasantness she exudes during the procedure should itself act like an anesthetic upon my throbbing mouth. Well, in either case she’d be wrong. She cleans while I suffer.

Over the years, though, I’ve developed a pretty solid method for at least tolerating my dental cleanings without crying like a babe fresh out of the womb. To take my mind off the violence going on inside my oral orifice, I concentrate extremely hard on one of two things—Scrabble or the Oscars. If it’s a Scrabble dental cleaning day, I think about what club and tournament players call “bingo stems.” That’s a series of six common letters that, when combined with another letter, can get you a seven letter word and a 50-point bonus. So, for example, the bingo stem “SATINE” when combined with an A gets you ENTASIA or TAENIAS. I’ll mentally go through the whole alphabet trying to remember every seven letter word you can get from “SATINE” and once done I’ll move on to “SATIRE,” and so on. Usually, by the time I get to the bingo stem “STONER” it’s time to rinse and spit, and my agony is over.

Today, however, knowing that the Academy Award nominees would be announced, I decided to make it one of my Oscar dental cleaning days. I start with the year I was born—1969—and go through year by year up to the present, trying to remember what won the Oscar for Best Picture. So when the scraping of my bottom back molars began I instantly thought, “1969 – Midnight Cowboy. Great movie. Gritty—just like my teeth are starting to get from the scraping.” For the next 15 minutes I continued my personal coping strategy…

1970 – Patton. Guess it was okay but kind of (Ouch! That was a nerve!) overrated.
1971 – The French Connection. At one point Gene Hackman drives past my high school in the famous chase scene. Cool!
1972 – The Godfather. I bet if my dental hygienist touched Don Corleone this way she’d end up sleeping with the fishes.
1973 – The Sting. Yup, felt the sting on my lateral incisor just now.
1974 – The Godfather Part II. Great movie, but I still can’t understand how anyone thinks it’s better than the first one.
1975 – One Flew Over the (Owwww! You caught my lip!) Cuckoo’s Nest. What I wouldn’t give for some of the sedatives McMurphy took right about now.
1976 – Rocky. The first one of the best pictures I saw in the theater. By round 15, Balboa’s mouth was only slightly bloodier than mine is at the moment.
1977 – Annie Hall. Woody at his finest. I bet he thinks about baseball during dental cleanings.
1978 – The Deer Hunter. I can’t believe I still haven’t gotten around to (Yikes! Watch it with that thing, it’s sharp!) seeing it.
1979 – Kramer vs. Kramer. The first year I remember watching the Oscars. Rooted for Dustin Hoffman to win Best Actor and was ecstatic when he did! I was not like other kids my age.
1980 – Ordinary People. I know everyone thinks Raging Bull got robbed, but I still prefer Ordinary People.
1981 – Chariots of Fire. One of my favorite (Ahhh! Another nerve!!) movies of all time.
1982 – Gandhi. Okay, this time I was like normal kids and rooted for E.T. I wonder what dental cleanings are like on his planet.
1983 – Terms of Endearment. Give me the shot! GIVE ME THE SHOT!
1984 – Amadeus. Another one of my favorites. What the hell ever happened to Tom Hulce?
1985 – Out of Africa. What a snooze-fest. I’d rather have another dental cleaning than see that dreck agaAAAAAAAHHHHH. Okay, maybe not.
1986 – Platoon. Very good movie—remember almost nothing about it.
1987 – The Last Emperor. Another one I need to see…when I have three hours to kill.
1988 – Rain Man. Another Dustin (Whoa! Here she goes with that sucky thingy!) Hoffman classic.
1989 – Driving Miss Daisy. Tough to know what was slower moving—Miss Daisy’s car or the movie.
1990 – Dances With Wolves. All I can think about are canine teeth! Canine teeth! Please get off my canine teeth!
1991 – Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter would be (Aaaargggghh!) enjoying himself about now.
1992 – Unforgiven. I thought I didn’t like westerns. I thought I didn’t like Clint Eastwood. So how come I liked this movie so much?
1993 – Schindler’s List. Great movie but I can never (Aaack! That’ll leave a mark!) think of it without picturing Jerry Seinfeld and his girlfriend making out in the theater.
1994 – Forrest Gump. Run, Forrest, run! As far away from the dentist’s office as you can!
1995 – Braveheart. Not feeling very brave right now.
1996 – The English Patient. I always get the sense that I’m the only person under the age of 70 who actually liked this movie.
1997 – Titanic. Never saw it. Never will. “And Iiiiiy-iiiiiiiy-iiiii am in lots of pain!”
1998 – Shakespeare in Love. Great movie. So was Saving Private Ryan. But I like Shakespeare in Love more. So there!
1999 – American Beauty. Same year as American Pie. Tough to get those two confused.
2000 – Gladiator. Can’t help but think, “Joey, do you like movies about Gladiators?”
2001 – A Beautiful Mind. Two years in a row for Russell Crowe! Who’d of thunk a movie about a mathematician could be (Gaaaaaahhh!!! Seriously??? I thought you already got that tooth!) so fascinating.
2002 – Chicago. It was entertaining, but Best Picture? Really, people? Really?
2003 – Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. This cleaning is starting to feel as long as the entire trilogy.
2004 – Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood again. I thought I didn’t like him, but he keeps on proving me wrong.
2006 – The Departed. Far from Scorsese’s best, but at least he finally got the damn thing.
2007 – No Country for Old Men. Far from the Coen Brother’s best, but at least they finally got the damn thing.
2008 – Slumdog Millionaire. I remember that advanced screening I got to go to with Danny Boyle taking questions afterwards. That was a cool (Aaaahhhh! Be done already, you vile woman!) experience.
2009 – The Hurt Locker. No movie title could possibly describe my mouth better right now than this one.
2010 – The King’s Speech. Another one I haven’t seen. Maybe I’ll skip my next dental cleaning and watch this movie instead.
2011 – The Artist. A silent movie winning Best Picture in 2011!!!! Can it get any cooler than that???
2012 – Argo. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggooooo!

And suddenly I ran out of years, but the hygienist still had two teeth left to work on. Crap! I had nothing to distract me from the next 90 seconds of pain and misery. Well, maybe if I start memorizing Golden Globe winners I’ll be ready for my next cleaning.

Friday, January 3, 2014

You Take Hercules, I’ll Take the Heat

Every year between about June and September I get all kinds of grief and derision thrown my way from friends and family living in the Northeast.

“How can you stand to live in 120-degree weather?” (We use a machine called an air conditioner.)

“You can fry an egg on the sidewalk out there!” (Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be very sanitary.)

“You must be insane!” (I…um…well, you got me there—but it has nothing to do with the heat.)

Yes, it’s true—it gets extremely hot in the Phoenix-metro area for about three or four months every year. But the heat never stops our daily lives. We drink lots of water, stay indoors where it’s cool, and sometimes splash around in one of the 43 gazillion pools in our area. Such a tough life we lead in the summer months. I understand why you mock me on an annual basis.

So forgive me my dear friends and family back east if I take a little bit of evil pleasure in seeing the barren, arctic wasteland you are now living in as a result of Winter Storm Hercules. From what I can discern from the plethora of Facebook posts I’m seeing, most of you cannot get to work, many of you are shivering your proverbial “tushies” off shoveling snow, and a decent amount of you are soon going to run out of hot chocolate.  According to, there has been 7.4 inches of snow in the past 24 hours and it is currently 21-degrees in the Brooklyn neighborhood in which I grew up—with a wind chill that makes it feel like it is 6-degrees. Right now in Phoenix it is 70-degrees, with a wind chill that makes it feel like it is 70 degrees. Hmm…guess there’s no wind today.

Of course this winter storm is not a one-time isolated event for those of you back east. You get several of these every year. Last year in New York City a total of 26.1-inches of snow was recorded in Central Park. In the winter of 95-96 (just a few months after I moved to Arizona) there was a record 75.6-inches of snow dropped on the Big Apple. Checking the record books, that year in Phoenix there was a grand total of zero inches of snow. Who’s insane now? Who’s eating eggs off the sidewalk now? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Okay, I’ve had my little gloat fest. Perhaps in a few months when you hear about triple-digit temperatures in Phoenix you’ll think twice before giving me so much crap…but I doubt it.